INTERVIEW WITH THE CO-RECIPIENTS OF 2016-2017 MESP TEACHING RECOGNITION AWA R D   (T R A)


PROFESSOR MIRIAM ELMAN

In  past  few  years,  you  have  offered  several  courses  on  different  topics  related  to  the  Middle  East;  do  you  think  your  courses  have  helped  students  to  develop  a  better  and  more  informed  understanding about the region? How?

My MES 342 course, Politics & Religion in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is cross-listed with political  science,  religious  studies,  and  Jewish  studies,  offers  students  an  interdisciplinary  analysis  of  the origins, history, and evolution of one of the most protracted conflicts in the world. A great deal of the discourse and scholarship on the Israeli-Arab conflict is incredibly biased. In the course, I reject a one-sided narrative by giving students the opportunity to revisit key developments in the conflict from multiple perspectives. The course provides students with the tools they need to accurately assess con-temporary events and to consider ways in which a lasting and just peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and neighboring Arab states could be achieved—as well as why conflict resolution has been so elusive.


Any suggestion for those who plan to teach courses on the MES and how to enhance knowledge about the region, especially in an impartial way?

In order to promote less biased knowledge about the region, it’s imperative that scholars become better methodologists and expose students to scholarship that is based on rigorous research designs. A great deal of what passes for scholarship on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, is little more than propaganda.


And finally, can you tell us a little bit about your own research?

My research has focused on a variety of topics related to the Middle East, including Israel’s religious political parties; the impact of domestic politics on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution; the role of spoilers in the Middle East peace process; and contesta-tion over the city of Jerusalem. In addition to my scholarly work, I write frequently on these issues for the general public and for policymakers, along with other non-academic audiences. I also write and speak often against academic boycotts in the field of Middle East Studies, which I view as both harmful to the production of knowledge and as inhibiting a discourse for peace.



PROFESSOR RANIA HABIB

In past few years, you have offered several courses on different topics related to the Middle East; do  you  think  your  courses  have  helped  students  to  develop  a  better  and  more  informed  under-standing about the region? How?

I have taught advanced courses related to Arabic language and culture. These courses are instrumental for students who are minoring or majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and for understanding the multiple facets of the region. Arabic is considered one of the most critical languages in the region due to the po-litical events that have been sweeping the region and other parts of the world. The increased number of students and interest in the region led me to offer advanced Arabic and culture courses and developing a minor in Arabic. One of the courses required for the minor is ARB/MES/LIT 336 (Arabic Cultures), which could be considered one of the most informative courses about the region. This course encompasses every aspect of everyday life in the Arab world, including and not limited to geography, literature, religion (Islam and other reli-gions), ethnic groups, social divisions, films, the media, music, art, food, gender issues, politics, economy, customs, and people’s way of life. This course promotes awareness and understanding of attitudes and values that may differ from those that exist in a student’s environment or background.


Any  suggestion  for  those  who  plan  to  teach  courses  on  the  MES  and  how  to  enhance  knowledge  about  the  region,  especially in an impartial way?

I believe in order to strengthen the MES program at SU, the curriculum should include higher levels of instruction in Middle Eastern  languages  to  be  able  to  compete  with  other  Middle  Eastern  programs  in  other  parts  of  the  country.  I  suggest  that  an  MES major should include at least three years of language instruction and a minor at least two years of language instruction. In addition, the curriculum could include concentrations in specific areas instead of having one general MES major degree, e.g., MES major with a concentration in economics, politics, religion, special area within the region, etc. 


And finally, can you tell us a little bit about your own research?

specialize in sociolinguistics, particularly language variation and change, with interests in bilingualism, cross-cultural communi-cation, child and adolescent language and second language/dialect acquisition, phonology, pragmatics, and syntax. My present research deals with dialectal variation in the Arab world, particularly the colloquial Arabic of rural migrant and non-migrant speakers to urban centers and the change that their speech undergoes due to linguistic, social, and psychological factors, such as prestige, age, gender, and residential area, contact, identity,  ideology, social meanings, social practices, etc. I have been for the past few years investigating the spread of urban linguistic features in the speech of rural children, adolescents, and adults in Syrian Arabic, comparing the speech of children to that of their parents to inform linguistic theory about whether children’s acquisition of variation is a mere statistical learning of their parents’ input or is developmental in nature. My work has been published and presented in national and international venues. My most recent presentations were two invited talks by the linguistics department in Cornell University on March 16-17, 2017, titled “Children’s deviation in the acquisition of variable linguistic gender patterns” and “Effect of TV and internal vs. external contact on variation in Syrian rural child language.” I have published three  single-authored  journal  articles  in  2016.  They  are  as  follows:  “Identity,  ideology,  and  attitude  in  Syrian  rural  child  and  adolescent speech” in the journal Linguistic Variation. “Parents and their children’s variable language: Is it acquisition or more?” in the Journal of Child Language. “Bidirectional linguistic change in rural child and adolescent language in Syria” in the journal Dialectologia.